For a gaming rig, the graphics card (GPU) is the most important component. The GPU is responsible for recreating the 3D environment of each game. The calculations for this operation must be done dozens of times every second, requiring considerable computing power. The GPU requires several specific components to calculate the polygonal scene, transform it into pixels and then send it to the monitor, which needs to work in synergy with the graphics card.
In addition, the GPU must work in tandem with other PC components, such as the CPU, and must also have a TDP rating (power consumption) lower than the power output of the Power supply (PSU).
Reading this guide will give you a clear idea of how to choose the best graphics card for your needs.
How to choose a graphics card
To choose a graphics card you need to make a series of evaluations, starting with your maximum spending budget and without forgetting your needs. Are you an occasional gamer or is it essential for you to achieve maximum performance?
In fact, it is not always worth buying a particularly powerful graphics card. All your PC components must be cleverly selected so as not to create a bottleneck: in other words, a high-end GPU must be paired with a high-end CPU and enough RAM that won’t slow the system down.
NVIDIA or AMD
The first question that buyers usually ask themselves when choosing a graphics card is: NVIDIA or AMD? NVIDIA and AMD are the only two companies that produce a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) chip.
In recent generations, NVIDIA has delivered the most powerful graphics cards on the market, as well as the most expensive, while AMD sells the most cost-effective ones.
The two important factors are the Graphics Processing Unit chip and the micro-architecture that is used within it. Sadly numbers alone don’t reveal the truth here. In order to understand the performance of each model you must read the various reviews, which put each model to the test and make comparisons between them, clearly stating which is the faster and what performance to expect when buying one of them.
Resolution, memory, and bandwidth
The resolution of your monitor is one of the most important aspects to consider when choosing a new graphics card because it determines the performance you will need. Once again, reviews come to the rescue and will tell you the amount of resolution each GPU is good for.
The performance of a graphics card is also dependent on the amount of integrated memory and bandwidth, which is a way to determine the speed of data transfer of the elements to be rendered.
The integrated memory of a GPU (also known as VRAM) is where the graphics card stores the 3d and 2D objects that compile a scene, while the bandwidth is responsible for transferring this data to and from the GPU.
In order to game in higher resolutions, you will need a GPU with a bigger amount of VRAM and higher bandwidth.
A powerful GPU can significantly increase the power consumption of your PC. Graphics cards manufacturers always suggest the recommended Wattage of the power supply, with the most powerful models needing a power supply of at least 800W.
Also, high-end graphics cards will most definitely need an additional power connector, typically a 6-pin or an 8-pin, sometimes two of them, and there are GPUs than require both, so make sure that your power supply has the compatible cables or buy an adapter.
SLI and CrossFire
Do not bother with a multi-GPU set-up (the pairing of two graphics cards for increased performance). It isn’t worth it and the market is slowly shifting away from it.
Most GPUs produce a good amount of heat that needs to be dissipated. Reference cooling solutions are often noisy especially when the GPU is under full load. That’s why it is recommended that you shop around for a third party model with a custom cooling solution.
A video card with a custom heatsink and fans has a lower operating temperature and is usually much quieter both when playing games and when idle.
The most popular ports are HDMI, DisplayPort, and DVI-D, among the digital ones, and the old VGA that is analog. You should have at least one of the digital ports both on your monitor and graphics card. If not you will have to get an adapter.
Which video card to buy
Now that you know these basic notions you can choose the best video card for you. Remember the basic rules, have a clear budget, match it with the rest of your computer components so you don’t create bottlenecks, and read the article at the bottom of the page to find out which are the best GPUs you should choose from.